A former Polar Express performer has criticised the working conditions she says forced her to quit.
Janet Melody, of Wolsingham, joined the team of dancing chefs on the festive train ride in November this year.
She said she was invited to two training days that were unpaid before she started working on the train.
“I asked about being paid for the training and I was told that the training was unpaid, and that we were told about it during the audition, but I don’t recall that,” she said.
“I’ve never known of any employer to expect employees to complete training unpaid.”
Inspired by the hit Warner Bros film, The Polar Express, and book by Chris Van Allsburg, the officially licensed train rides returned to Weardale Railway in Stanhope, during November and December.
Miss Melody, 41, said:
“We were paid a little more than minimum wage and as well as entertaining the guests, we were expected to clean the train and set up for the next ride.
“I was part-time, so I worked from 4pm till around 9.30pm and never got a break. It’s physically active stuff, we are singing and dancing all of the time and it’s exhausting.
“Some of the girls were full-time and were working from noon right through to 9.30pm without having time to have a break.
“It’s just so unfair because all of the staff work really hard and they put their all into it.
“Just before I left I think a lot of people were getting sick and leaving – I got a text message from the employer asking if I had any friends who wanted to work there.”
“I just thought the working conditions were terrible and I wasn’t willing to put myself through that. I have complained but I haven’t heard anything back.”
The Polar Express train ride includes afternoon and evening departures throughout November and December and costs £22 per adult and £17 per child.
A statement from Weardale Railway said:
“Weardale Railway and The Polar Express cannot comment on this publicly as it is a personnel matter.
“We can say that neither Weardale Railway or The Polar Express have received a grievance from any members of our team and we comply with all relevant employment laws.”
Source – Northern Echo, 29 Dec 2014